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An Unforgettable Experience at TOC Nationals

James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator  |  April 19, 2017
<p><span class="articletitle">An Unforgettable Experience at TOC Nationals</span></p>
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ORLANDO, FL- Six of the nation’s best college club tennis teams traveled from New England to USTA’s brand new National Campus in Orlando, FL from April 13-15 for the Tennis On Campus (TOC) National Championships. Harvard, Yale, Boston College, Northeastern, Tufts and the University of Rhode Island all earned the right to compete in the elite field of 64 at TOC’s most prestigious annual event.


Teams were divided into flights of four for pool play, and based on results, were assigned to either the Gold, Silver, Bronze or Copper Bracket.


The University of Michigan took home the 2017 crown, defeating the University of California, Irvine, in the finals. The victory was the first for the USTA Midwest Section.
Harvard headlined the New England field, followed by BC, Northeastern, Yale, Tufts and URI.

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“Each of these teams is an accurate representation of the New England TOC program, from competitive play and sportsmanship to constant support for one another,” said Sarah Rice, Manager, Community Development for USTA New England. “I’m glad they got to experience playing at the National Campus against the best TOC teams from around the country.”


Below is a breakdown of how the six participating New England schools fared:


Harvard (13th)- It’s fitting that the 2017 section champs came away with the top New England finish at Nationals. The Crimson finished unbeaten in their flight, edging out the University of California, Davis, The University of Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh to advance to the Gold Bracket.


“Coming into the tournament, we wanted to keep the momentum from winning Sectionals and get off to a strong start at Nationals, so it was really awesome to achieve our goal the first day,” said Harvard Captain Tristan Threatt.


For winning their flight however, Harvard was rewarded with the task of squaring off against the eventual champions, Michigan, in the first round of the Gold Bracket. The Crimson gave the Wolverines their toughest fight up until the championship, but ultimately fell short, 26-19.


Harvard dropped its next match to the University of Florida, 26-20, but bounced back with convincing wins against Vanderbilt and Penn State.


“The second we stepped on the court for our first Gold Bracket match, we could tell a different type of competitiveness was going to be required. The energy level of both the players and the fans created an entirely different environment that signaled this would be a different type of match and that the Gold Bracket would foster a higher level of intensity,” Threatt said. “Competing against some of the best teams in the country was definitely at first a daunting task, but retrospectively, it validated that we earned our spot at Nationals and furthermore in the Gold Bracket.”


“Rather than a deterrent, losing some of our early matches in the Gold Bracket gives us a concrete benchmark to work towards and to serve as motivation for next year,” Threatt added. “Since a lot of our players are going to be returning next year, I think the experience and familiarity with competing at a high level will greatly help as we seek to improve.”


Harvard has competed at Nationals every year since 2011 and hopes to get back once again in 2018.

Boston College (18th)- Appearing in its eighth consecutive TOC Nationals, BC knew as well as anyone what it takes to make a run. Finishing in 20th place last year, the Eagles set their sights on an improved result in 2017.


“Our team has been improving every year in recent history and it is great to see our improvements at this tournament from year to year,” said Junior Captain Dan Cunningham. “We wanted to beat our top-20 finish from last year and successfully did so by finishing in the finals of the Silver Bracket and 18th overall. All of our players left it all out on the court and played great throughout the tournament.”


BC finished 2-1 in pool play with its lone defeat coming against Vanderbilt. The Eagles downed Northeastern, the University of Iowa and University of California, Davis in the Silver Bracket all before falling to the University of Miami (FL) in the finals.


“The highlight of the tournament for us was having such a great supporting squad come down for the tournament,” Cunningham said. “We had many fans come all the way down to Orlando to cheer us on, including parents, teammates and former club tennis presidents, Jake Sheehan and Richard Kim. It is great to see how many people care about BC club tennis and great to have so much positive energy around our team when we play.”


Northeastern (29th)- A Northeastern squad that finished 15th at Nationals in 2016, earned 13th place in the Silver Bracket and 29th overall this year. The three-time defending Sectional champions were finally dethroned this year, but still played well enough to earn another trip to the National Championships.


The Huskies beat both Texas State and Kent State in pool play and fell to eventual quarterfinalist and flight winner, University of California, Berkley. Northeastern dropped its first Silver Bracket match to BC, but picked up late wins against Yale and the University of Virginia to secure 13th.


Yale (31st)- Yale capped off its best season in program history with a Silver Bracket finish (15th) at TOC Nationals. The Bulldogs won their first ever Battle of the Sections back in September and finished second only to Harvard at October’s Sectionals.


“After our amazing season, we had high expectations going into Nationals. We were hoping to make it to the Gold or Silver Bracket, and were able to reach that goal, placing the highest we have ever done in our short history as a team,” said Sophomore Captain Stephanie Levine. “We played well and had a great team spirit. Overall, I was impressed with the level of playing of my teammates and we are all motivated to do even better next year.”


Yale opened its flight by going 2-0 with convincing victories over the University of New Mexico and Binghamton University. In their third match however they ran into an unfavorable assignment in eventual champions, Michigan, who prevented the Bulldogs from any shot at Gold, winning 30-9.


Tufts (49th)- The Jumbos got off to a slow start in their first Nationals appearance in four years, but battled back to take home the Copper Bracket Championship. Tufts opened with consecutive losses against the University of Washington, UCLA and the University of Alabama in flight play.


The team remained positive and was determined to make the most of the situation. In the Copper Bracket, they racked off four consecutive victories over Northern Colorado, Kent State, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the finals.


“We were so grateful for the chance to go to Nationals for the first time in four years and were especially proud to be only one of two D3 schools (Washington University in St. Louis) out of 64 teams. We had a great time and are so proud of our results,” said Captain Juliet Johnson.

 

URI (55th)- In just their fourth year as a program, the Rams took home USTA New England’s Club of the Year honors and earned their first tip to TOC Nationals.

 

“URI has shown tremendous strides as a club this year. We have so many teams that excel both on and off the court, but URI has gone above and beyond to show their dedication and commitment to the TOC program day in and day out,” Rice said in a press release in February.


After going 0-3 in pool play, the Rams picked up wins against the University of Texas, Arlington and Kent State to finish seventh in the Copper Bracket.


The National Championships were held at USTA’s National Campus for the first time after previously being played in Cary, NC.

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